DECIPHERING MOONSHADOWS, Redmoon Theater, at the Chicago Historical Society, Uihlein Plaza. Pleasantly puzzling and often enchanting, Redmoon Theater's latest open-air creation--directed, designed, and written by Jim Lasko and Shoshanna Utchenik--involves a Chicago couple whose paths cross though they never meet until they're meant to: for most of the piece Hector, a writer, and Madeline, an artist, remain at a delicate distance. Despite a brief encounter at a cocktail party, mutual involvement in an inconclusive car crash, a brush together at the Cafe Tweet, and run-ins at a hospital and the movies, only at the end can they finally fall into a kind of fate.
But no bare-bones plot summary can begin to suggest Redmoon's astonishing stage pictures. Dressed in turquoise hoop skirts, the 40-member ensemble roll translucent flats around illuminated by actors carrying candles or wearing stage lights, creating shadow-puppet silhouettes depicting everything from childbirth to kitchen implements to a screening of A Streetcar Named Desire. Lawn mowers dressed up as minicars suggest a city street, trays of food lit from within turn the Chicago Historical Society plaza into a spectral cocktail party, and sleek white herons soar across the stage as Hector and Madeline, dangling from precarious perches, finally connect.
It may be daunting to decipher Redmoon's moon shadows, but it's easy to fall under their spell. Enhancing the magic of masks, makeup, and puppets is Jonathan Steinmeier's percussive score for music saw, kettledrum, and cello, providing the perfect playful complement to the midsummer madness. --Lawrence Bommer